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A Lifelong Des Moines Resident on What It's Like Working in Downtown Des Moines

Working in Des Moines

August 28, 2023

Over the past 23 years in this role, many things have changed, but one thing remains the same — Greater Des Moines (DSM) is home to some of the most generous community members in the world. When I travel for conferences and share how much Variety Iowa raises and the impact we’re making on the children of Iowa, I often get asked, “How in the world are you raising that much money in Iowa?” and I always respond, “First of all, you need to visit Iowa and you’ll see just how special it is, and how much our communities care about helping people in need.” The passion our community has for supporting philanthropic efforts is astounding — which makes my job working for the children of Iowa so rewarding.

I have been a lifelong Des Moines resident — I grew up on the southside and attended Lincoln High School and Grandview College. I still reside on the southside with my husband, Mark. Des Moines has been and always will be home!

Working at Variety in Des Moines

As the Executive Director of Variety, no two days ever really look the same, and that is just how I like it! I usually start my day with a large fountain Diet Coke, then head into our office on the third floor of the Insurance Exchange Building, where we have officed since 1991. We may be headquartered in the Insurance Exchange Building, but you’ll see Variety’s name throughout Des Moines on various buildings, signs, vans and buses owned by children’s nonprofits that have received a Variety Grant including: Oakridge Neighborhood Services, Iowa Homeless Youth Center, Blank Children’s Hospital NICU, Young Women’s Resource Center and many more. Variety provides funding to children’s nonprofits annually for tangible items such as: building expansions and renovations, equipment, vehicles and programming needs.

Variety Iowa Bike

I’ll spend my morning responding to emails, going over our mobility applications for children with special needs to receive a customized piece of mobility equipment from Variety or chatting with our board members. For lunch, we’ll walk as a staff through the skywalk to one of the many Downtown Des Moines restaurants. Some of our favorites include: the Burger Shop at Local Bites, Basil Prosperi in the 801 Building or Palmer’s in the Kaleidoscope At the Hub. There are so many great options to choose from that we usually have a hard time picking! We’ll head back to the office, and usually end up stopping in the skywalk to talk to someone I haven’t seen for a while. That’s one of the best things about working downtown — you’re always running into people you know!

My afternoon is usually filled with meetings and calls for one of Variety’s various fundraising events, checking in with one of our many charity grant partners or meeting with a donor to discuss how they want to help Iowa’s children. There’s always something new happening at Variety — we are constantly looking for new fundraising ideas and different ways to make an impact with children in Des Moines and throughout the entire state.

Little did I know when Variety took a chance with this southside girl, that this organization would become such an essential part of not only my life, but my family’s as well. By far, accepting this position has been my very best career choice and has changed my life in so many ways. The relationships that I have had the fortune to develop are and will continue to be cherished. Seeing the impact Variety’s dollars have made on children, families, organizations and our community due to the generosity of our donors has and will always be the ultimate reward.

Learn more about Variety at varietyiowa.com.

With the #7 Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S. and a Top Metro for Number of Economic Development Projects (among metros with a population of 200,000 to 1 million), Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Sheri McMichael

Sheri McMichael is Executive Director of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa.